I thought recovery would be a straight-forward process taking a maximum of 4 weeks. One week in, I began to realize my recovery wouldn’t just be about patching up. It felt like a dead end. I thought I wasn’t sick enough to invest in treatment, but not well enough to live life.
‘So where do you feel you’re at Alex?’ my worried father asked as I radiated the hopelessness I felt inside. ‘Well, to be honest, dad, if recovery is a mountain, I’m standing at the bottom with my hands in my pockets, kicking rocks around.
I had imagined getting a counselor, some pills, and a job to pass the time would get me back to university in no time. The only thing that would change, I thought, would be that I would be a year behind and had to make new friends. I felt university was a part of my identity, which I seemed to have lost.
Through the self-discovery which followed in a 2-year course of treatment, I found my true identity in a number of ways:
1. Stripping away distractions
I ‘took time out of life’ – left university, left my job, to get to a solid base point which I could work up from. At this point, I was still convinced that my identity was who I was before my illness. But my therapists helped convince me to have faith in this part of the process and the person I’d become. I also made new friends through treatment who were all working toward the same goal. At this stage, I spent most of my time with people I met through support groups or therapy.
2. Looking after my body
I worked with a nutritionist to take away the limitations my eating disorder had put on the foods I could eat. She helped me to set food challenges and monitored my health. I also made a conscious effort to go to all the health appointments and made my health a priority.
3. Learning mindfulness
Through mindfulness meditation, I learned to listen to my body and my mind. I did body scan meditations where I felt my emotions fully and welcomed them into my body.
Realizing the extent to which my eating disorder had been blocking out emotions, I made it my mission to get them back into my life again as part of myself.
4. Discovering what I enjoyed
With a new found sense of knowing my emotions, I was able to judge really well what felt right for me and what I enjoyed. I discovered what I loved. the real me loved going to the cinema, playing instruments (I even had a drumming lesson), helping at my local youth marching band. Doing all these things, I get a sense of who I was at my core, which had been buried for so long.
5. Making these things a priority
I made it a priority to do these things weekly. With all the free time I had, I went to the cinema down the road from my treatment center after sessions, sometimes twice a week. Also, I made it part of my routine to go to the local market which I enjoyed looking around. My weeks became filled with fun activities and the feeling of my spirit soaring.
6. Finding a sustainable balance
Then I found longer-term things to do that meant I could fit all of these things into my life whilst having enough money to sustain myself! I got a job at a place which felt really right and discovered my interest in philosophy, which led to my degree and moving out of home.
Recovery doesn’t just mean I can eat a meal. It means I can eat a meal with my new loving partner, before heading out with great friends, or going to university to study a degree I love and enjoy.
Recovery has not just changed the way I see food, but the way I see and do everything.
Image Source: Flickr